The government maintained minimal protection efforts. The government’s reporting on victim identification and protection was unreliable and often varied from source to source. The government reported identifying two sex trafficking victims, both girls, in 2021, compared with one victim in 2020 and eight in 2019. In a separate forum, the government reported identifying six child trafficking victims in 2021. The government reported NGOs and other organizations did not identify any additional victims; however, civil society reported their organizations continued to identify and support victims. Both identified victims were Nicaraguan nationals; the government did not identify or support any foreign trafficking victims exploited in Nicaragua or Nicaraguans exploited abroad, despite media reports of several cases where Costa Rican and Spanish officials identified Nicaraguan victims exploited in sex and labor trafficking. The government did not report implementing or training officials to use protocols it reportedly developed in 2019 to facilitate identifying child and adolescent trafficking victims among vulnerable populations. Officials did not identify any victims in the Caribbean autonomous regions, where endemic poverty and limited official presence contributed to significant trafficking vulnerability.
Despite identifying two child sex trafficking victims, the government did not report providing medical or psychological care to any trafficking victims in 2021. The government reported it provided unspecified support for six trafficking victims—a figure that may have included victims reflected in the government’s official statistics for 2021 or identified in previous reporting periods—aiding law enforcement investigations or prosecutions. The government reported agencies had allocations for trafficking victim protection in the national budget, but these did not provide for specialized services or shelters, nor did the government disclose figures for the allocations. The government did not indicate whether it could provide appropriate services to male victims, victims with disabilities, or LGBTQI+ victims. Government entities did not coordinate or collaborate with civil society organizations on victim identification or assistance. NGOs reported there had been minimal, if any, communication with the government on victim services since 2018; observers indicated the government’s restrictive relationship with civil society significantly worsened during the reporting period. The government continued its practice of revoking the registration of civil society organizations, forcing the closure of at least one shelter providing a range of services to women victims of violence, including trafficking, in 2021.
The government did not fund or support NGOs providing the majority of available victim protection services in the country, leaving victims without vital assistance. The government did not provide shelter or housing support to any trafficking victims in 2020. There were no trafficking- specific shelters in Nicaragua and, in general, capacity for long-term services was minimal; the government did not provide extended shelter, and NGOs had a limited ability to provide such care. The government’s unofficial policy of placing victims with family members, in the absence of shelter options, put trafficking victims at risk of re-victimization by family members who may have been complicit in their exploitation. There were no shelters available for men. The Ministry of Family coordinated services for child trafficking victims, including medical and legal services and access to education; officials could refer child trafficking victims to “special protection centers,” but the government often returned child victims to their families’ care, despite risk of re-victimization. Observers identified a lack of adequate services across the entire country.
Law 896 established a dedicated fund for victim protection and prevention activities to be financed through budget allocation, donations, and assets seized from traffickers. However, for the seventh consecutive year, there was no indication that the government made the fund operational. Law 896 provided victims the ability to testify in advance of the trial and allowed testimony via video or written statement to encourage participation and protect a victim’s identity; however, the government did not report using these provisions. Victims could obtain compensation by filing civil suits against traffickers; however, NGOs reported the lack of streamlined procedures for trafficking victims and lengthy case timelines made the process unduly burdensome. There was no record that victims had ever exercised this right. Due to frequent misclassification of trafficking cases and a lack of formal identification procedures, authorities likely detained, arrested, and deported some unidentified trafficking victims. The government did not report efforts to screen for or identify trafficking victims among migrant populations or individuals in commercial sex. Nicaraguan law provided for humanitarian visas for foreign trafficking victims, but the government had not identified any foreign victims since 2018.